Cherries outgunned by Reds and Salah
- Lee Mason
Mo Salah scored a hat-trick as AFC Bournemouth lost 4-0 to still unbeaten Liverpool at Vitality Stadium.
The Egyptian tucked home a rebound to give the Reds the lead just past the midway point of the first half as the away side took a slim lead into half time.
Salah added a second moments after the resumption, charging through and finishing accurately to lengthen the lead and the Cherries' odds.
The home side looked for a way back but Steve Cook scored an own goal as the game began to get away from the hosts, Salah completing his hat-trick with mesmeric footwork in the box to beat the 'keeper and defenders.
A late and slight hamstring injury forced top-scorer Callum Wilson out of the squad, Junior Stanislas and Andrew Surman coming into the side that lined up against Huddersfield in midweek.
The game got started in wet and slippery conditions, the rain falling in a thick drizzle, with Bournemouth allowing the opponents the ball in safer areas from the outset and containing the Reds well in the opening ten minutes.
Xherdan Shaqiri hit the top of the wall with a dangerously-placed free-kick after a Nathan Ake handball, before Salah sliced off target when he found a pocket of space in the area.
Joshua King then fired wide from 20 yards and a minute or so later Stanislas crafted a chance from the left flank, exchanging passes with Charlie Daniels before threading through for David Brooks, whose near-post shot was palmed away by Alisson.
However, on 25 minutes the away side took the lead, with a large slice of fortune about Salah's opener.
Roberto Firmino took on a shot from 25 yards with Asmir Begovic stopping the skidding effort, only for the Egyptian, following up from an offside position, to convert the rebound from ten yards, keeping up his record of scoring in each match he's played against the Cherries.
Ake had a chance to level at the back post following a corner, the looping ball falling to him in relative freedom close in, but the Dutchman couldn't make a clean connection and the ball bobbled out of play.
The home tempo was increasing, but despite some nervier moments for the Liverpool backline, the visitors went in with a one-goal advantage at the interval.
Two-and-a-half minutes after the restart Liverpool scored a second, Salah at his explosive best to double the lead.
In midfield the Reds swarmed to win back possession, Firmino then the architect again as he spotted Salah's run. With just Ake ahead of him, the attacker bore down on goal, charging into the area and finishing clinically low and across goal.
Searching for a way back against a side who ahead of kick-off had conceded a league-low six goals, Bournemouth upped their pressure again, but with 22 minutes remaining the visitors grabbed a third.
Fortune was on their side again however as, after a well-worked move which led to Andrew Robertson's cross, Cook inadvertently put through his own net as he scrambled to ready his feet eight yards from goal while trying to cut out the centre.
A fourth came for the away side when substitute Adam Lallana's ball sent Cook and Salah chasing. The Cherries defender won the initial tackle but Salah was in on goal none-the-less, sidestepping Begovic not once but twice before coolly keeping his nerve to finish past recovering defenders on the line.
Charlie Daniels lasered a shot a foot over the bar as the Cherries sought a consolation, but the direction of the points had been decided as Bournemouth drew a blank for just the fourth time this season.
With eight goals and four assists already this season, the Cherries were always going to be at a disadvantage without Wilson, with Eddie Howe's set-up looking to keep disruption to a minimum: King moving forwards to the pinnacle while Fraser moved into the space behind the striker.
The switches meant Brooks, Stanislas and Fraser were charged with offering King their support but it was always a challenge against the strong Liverpool midfield outfit, with Naby Keita especially impressive during the match.
The fine margins that so often decide games at the top level were evidenced during the first half of the day's lunchtime kick-off. Liverpool's opener was shown to be offside, while at the other end Ake's first-half opening could have drawn the Cherries level at the break.
Bournemouth now have the rarity of seven days to prepare for their next test after Saturday's latest game from their tough run of recent fixtures, with Wolves up next at Molineux next weekend.